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Emotional eating and self sabotage

(75 Posts)
OldBooks Mon 26-Dec-16 20:24:26

On this thread I mentioned that I need to lose weight but struggle with negative thoughts around dieting. So I would like to ask if anyone has any suggestions, resources, similar stories to inspire and help me.

Background (apologies for length): I have been a 'big girl' ever since I hit puberty, diagnosed with PCOS in my late teens. I seem to settle at size 16-18 and usually weigh around 90-100 kilos. I am now in my 30s and have just had DD2 which has obviously affected my tummy and I look flabbier than ever. I have lost weight in the past on low-carb diets or on 5:2 but always get derailed and never manage to maintain any loss.

My mother is a classic narcissist and we have a difficult relationship. One of her biggest sticking points is my weight. She herself is vain and insecure and constantly references her weight, what she is eating, how she needs to exercise etc. She grabs her tummy and says how disgusting she looks. This is almost a game or a habit as she never actually does anything to address it. Ever since I started to gain weight in my teens she has commented on it, screamed and shouted at me to lose weight, been extremely negative etc to the point of giving me a huge complex, shredding my self esteem/confidence and leaving me with disordered thoughts around food and eating. Of course she never actually helped me to take any positive steps to lose weight or begin exercising, and I have come to understand that in a way she actually wants me to be overweight as it reduces my threat to her vanity and she has sabotaged me to ensure I stay big, eg always bringing cakes/biscuits when she visits. I have struggled with depression and anxiety and have found my negative thinking about my appearance has affected my life, especially before I met my DH. For example missing a friend's wedding because I thought I looked hideous in all my outfits.

I was always a 'good girl', no drinking, smoking, boys and successful academically - eating was my only 'vice'. I comfort eat a lot, when I am stressed, sad, angry, bored etc I immediately crave sweet foods. I have only been able to maintain dieting/healthy eating during stable and stress free periods of my life, as soon as there is any difficulty I want to eat eat eat again. I also began to self harm in my teens and will still do so in extremis - I think that overeating and ruining my health by doing so is a form of self harm and fits with that mindset. But ironically I harm myself most over my weight, eg I once carved 'fat cow' into my stomach with a pair of scissors.

Now I have 2 daughters I am terrified of passing on my thoughts about my body image and eating to them. I want them to see me maintaining a healthy lifestyle, eating well with treats in moderation, exercising for pleasure and being positive, dressing well and taking care of myself no matter my size. But it is so hard to implement. I know how to eat healthily and about nutrition and what is good for me as a woman with PCOS. I know it will be beneficial to my long term health to eat a low carb, low sugar diet and maintain that. I know that my negative thoughts about my body and my low self esteem come from my mother. But I can't make myself stop thinking these negative thoughts. I can't approach a healthy lifestyle in a positive way, as a good thing I am doing for myself and my family. I feel resentful of the PCOS, deprived and sulky. I spiral into self-abusive comments, call myself useless, a failure, a waste of space. I fantasize about cutting my tummy.

How do I address the gap between what my rational mind understands (these negative thoughts come from my upbringing, a healthy lifestyle will be beneficial) and what my emotional self feels (waaaaa I want the cake it's not fair, why can't I have the cake, I shouldn't have the cake, just eat the cake, now look you fat bitch you've eaten the cake, you can't do anything right)?

It is so exhausting thinking about food constantly. I want to eat, I shouldn't eat, what can I eat... I just want to break this cycle and think about food normally!

Sisterelephant Mon 26-Dec-16 21:46:34

Op I can totally relate I've had an unhealthy relationship with food for most of my adult life. I've always settled around 12/14 which is very overweight for my 5'1 frame. Whilst pregnant with ds2 I put on 3st and I was so down about it, once he was born I decided I had enough of giving myself excuses to stay overweight. I felt awful. What worked for me is that i started one thing at a time. Tried to start with small excerises which was walking then I progressed to running and I did couch to 5k, I left the kids with dh and ran 3 times a week it was enough for me to enjoy it but not too
much to give me a reason not to do it iyswim, But Op I loved it, it's such a great feeling when you run, I found it cleared my mind of stresses at home and my depression and anxiety.

Once I was in a routine of running, I then looked at my foods, i'm a sugar addict and that was always my downfall so I cut it out and only had 'natural sugars' so those in fruit and veg occasionally honey in cereal and it has changed my life. The sugar in food can be so addictive you literally can't stop eating it, it's not always because you actually WANT it. I've lost 4st and still going. Do your research op, people all over social media share their stories and you'll see you are not alone and lots of people are stuck in a cycle but find what works for them and achieve it.

I wish you lots of luck!

OldBooks Mon 26-Dec-16 21:56:14

Thank you, it's great to hear from someone who has had some success. It's interesting that you did things slowly and one thing at a time. I usually throw myself into huge changes and then can't manage to sustain anything. I definitely feel addicted to sugar so that will be something to look at.

NoTractorsAtTheTable Mon 26-Dec-16 22:01:21

I completely identify with with you've written. It's utterly draining, isn't it? The rational and emotional mind just. will. not. agree.

Low carb, high fat is working for me - I've lost 12lb since the end of October, in a sensible, non-'this food is BAD' type way. But it's early days for me, so I'm hoping to gain a bit more inspiration from here (sorry for the blatant piggy-back!)

OldBooks Mon 26-Dec-16 22:19:56

Well done on losing 12lbs tractors! Draining is the right word. Low carb high fat definitely works for me. It's just that initial push to start and then to keep going! I worry that as food is such a crutch for me I won't be able to cope on a bad day unless I eat all the biscuits, and my 'all or nothing' mentality means I will then throw away progress because I have 'ruined it' rather than thinking 'this was a bad day, it is ok, tomorrow will be better'.

I have been reading on other threads about bullet jounalling, I love a nice notebook so maybe that will help - set small goals and log them. The trick will be making sure I set sensible and achievable goals. Like say that in January I will change breakfast from cereal to fruit and yoghurt. That's it. No other change. Let that bed in and become habit. Then move on to change snacking in February. And so on.

NoTractorsAtTheTable Mon 26-Dec-16 22:34:32

Ah yes, that's where I've fallen down in the past too - one mis-step and I've decided I'm ruined forever blush

I've also gone along the whole "I will change EVERY bad habit at once" mindset, which doesn't really work...or the tiny changes which I end up dismissing as too easy...but then not following through on those either! blush

Bullet journalling really appeals to me too - I have a nice notebook and pen too, so I may join you with that, if I can find a suitable goal to work to - losing a certain body weight% per month appeals, or no pesto pasta for the month a huge vice for me

Barktheheralddogssing Tue 27-Dec-16 02:04:43

I'm in a similar situation. I suffer with depression and have done so for years. I comfort eat and crave sweet things. I've lost weight before on a low carb diet but am now up to a size 16 and feel very unhappy. I go through a similar thought process. ..

I'm sorry, I dont know the answer. I need to lose weight and stop eating rubbish food.

I don't know how to get into the right frame of mind. I've had a very tough 18 months but I need to bounce back now.

I too know how to eat healthily. I know I need to exercise but struggle to find the motivation. I can't run due to prolapse problems but would be happy walking if I could make myself go out.

plinkyplonkyploo Tue 27-Dec-16 02:44:31

This is what has worked for me. Two meals a day. No snacking at all. Eat whatever I want including dessert but only as part of a meal. First week was hard but thereafter it's pretty easy. To stop at the end of a meal I brush my teeth. Best thing is I no longer think about food all the time. Have lost 1.5 stone in 3 mos and feel great. Good luck.

MajesticWhine Tue 27-Dec-16 03:08:56

Set small achievable goals. Don't try anything drastic which is bound to fail, so no really restrictive quirky diets. Set yourself self esteem goals rather than (or as well as) dieting goals. Work on changing your internal dialogue with positive, encouraging respectful self-talk. You are a valuable and loveable person regardless of your body shape. Make a list of your achievements and positive qualities. You can learn to change your negative thoughts or detach from them. You already have done this to an extent by externalising them to your mother. Take a course in cbt or mbct.

OldBooks Tue 27-Dec-16 05:10:46

tractors who would have thought that the chance to use nice stationery would be motivating?!

bark I'm sorry you are in the same boat. I hope you can find some motivation. Do you have any nice parks nearby to go for a walk in?

plinky thanks for sharing what has helped you and well done on your loss. Eating whatever you want but limiting the amount seems like a good compromise so you don't feel deprived. Which meal do you not have - breakfast I assume?

majestic thank you for your advice. I am still not sure HOW to actually change the internal dialogue. It seems so ingrained. I have briefly tried cbt but never heard of mbct so will look into that.

plinkyplonkyploo Tue 27-Dec-16 05:47:34

Yes I skip breakfast. Having satisfying meals means you don't feel deprived. You can look forward to eating something nice every day !

MirabelleTree Tue 27-Dec-16 08:04:26

I can relate to this on the Mother front. Mine used to hate it if I was thinner than her and would do anything in her power to sabotage me, despite me asking her not to. I had a jacket that became too big when I had a successful time losing weight which she had gone on about loving. I gave it to her when it was too big but a few days later she coldly handed it back to me saying she didn't want it and wouldn't wear it. I know it was because it no longer fitted me.

She died in June after a long difficult illness and I realised yesterday my emotional hunger has finally gone after 47 years, now if I'm hungry it is generally because I am physically hungry. I need to lose weight for an operation and have managed 13lbs in 6 weeks which I'm really pleased with.

Think you need to find the method that appeals to you. I like numbers so counting calories using Nutracheck and monitoring the calories I have expended using my Fitbit works well for me. I realise now how each weekend I was really inactive and would eat more and the figures gave me a boot up the backside.

I doubt I'll ever manage to run but I'm enjoying walking much more and have used Leslie Sansone's walk at home (cheesy but effective). I've built up slow and was so tired at first but am much more capable of doing about 10k steps a day. I don't stress if I don't , I just like to see I've a calorie deficit or on very hungry days that I've broken even. I feel much more in control of my food rather than a victim of it as I have felt before in the past.

It's early days yet and I have a lot of weight to go yet but I feel cautiously optimistic and sad though it is there is a big part of me that thinks something along the lines of 'up yours' at my Mum. I wish I'd realised when she was alive what a negative effect she had on me on a day to day basis, I would have put far more distance between us much earlier. I didn't really realise the influence she had on my life until about 4 years ago when a friend called her toxic and said she had spent years watching the negative effect she had on me.

With Mothers like ours we've been conditioned from a young age about our weight and it takes time to undo that. I think the advice of starting slowly is very good. This won't be a quick thing and there will be many blips along the way when our past conditioning will get the better of us but the important thing is to recognise it isn't easy and not to let bad days/weeks sabotage us and keep going. I know it is much harder when your personal saboteur is alive and in action but having recognised their role does give you some control.

flowers to everyone who can relate to this topic.

Bluntness100 Tue 27-Dec-16 08:18:55

If I could add one bit of advice, as i will come at it from the understanding the impact of having a shitty parent, it would be to stop blaming your mother (,or pcos) , accept and tell yourself that you are a responsible adult who makes her own food choices and is in control of what she eats and how she behaves. Because that's what you are.

A responsible adult with her own daughters, who I'm sure you don't want posting something similar to you in a few years. Accept that unless they are tiny they are already learning and understanding your behaviour and thoughts on your weight and food and it's time to take control, accept youre an adult, and food and exercise is within your control and it's your decision.

You're clearly not happy with your weight, so don't live like this, "eating all the biscuits"doesn't help you cope as you know, it just prolongs the cycle.

So one day at a time, start making the changes now, for example why wait till Jan to do something as simple as change your breakfast choice? 💐

ColdFeetinWinter Tue 27-Dec-16 08:27:30

I agree with bluntness. Whilst you are trying to understand why you have a food problem you're not taking future responsibility for it. Blaming your mum gets you off the hook for it which means you're free to continue.

That feels harsh I'm sure but is meant to help. Take the next step to breaking the cycle and know that you are capable of change. You're not tied to your mum

MirabelleTree Tue 27-Dec-16 09:08:35

I agree with Bluntness and Coldfeet but spent years telling myself I was a responsible adult in charge of my weight and my Mum's behaviour was nothing to do with it. DH kept telling me I was a harsh critic of myself and he had a point now I think.

Personally I think it's a balance between accepting responsibility for your weight and future actions, acknowledging the role your Mother and upbringing have played to bring you to where you are today and working out a method that works with your particulat personality.

flapjackfairy Tue 27-Dec-16 09:16:30

I understand completely as i had a lot of pressure from my mum over weight when young and i think i stay big as a rebellion against that at times .When i lost 3 stone of couple of years ago for my daughters wedding it was hailed and applauded in a way that made me feel that i was gross before! I have now regained a stone and a half and feel disgusting! Avoiding seeing mum altogether at the moment.
Honestly sometimes i want to just let it all go and accept myself whatever my size ! I honestly think i would be slimmer if i did so but the fwar of being even bigger is too scary!!

PosiePootlePerkins Tue 27-Dec-16 11:20:29

I would encourage you to have a look at the NoS diet, there's a website and a book, and we have a thread running here on MN (although I think most of us have fallen off the wagon for Christmas!) It is helping me enormously with emotional eating and the yoyo dieting I have been doing for most of my adult life. It is a very simple diet with only a few rules and that's where the beauty of it lies. No snacks, seconds or sweets except for days beginning with S eg weekends and special days like birthdays. Good luck OP.

Barktheheralddogssing Tue 27-Dec-16 13:32:30

I think it's very easy to say, don't eat all the biscuits, but it's really not as simple as that. There are complex emotional reactions playing a role and it is very difficult to overcome them.

I also struggle with being a perfectionist - if I don't succeed I'm very hard on myself and I'm very impatient, needing immediate results which of course is impossible when dieting.

Sometimes (or maybe always? ) I feel I'm punishing myself by overeating when I feel I've failed.

I do think working on self esteem, self confidence, past issues is the way to deal with the problem.

Also not being too hard on ourselves, maybe not trying to change everything at once. And not thinking, this is for ever, I can't cope. Live a day at a time .. "I'll just get through today without eating sweets chocolate and biscuits ..." ... Maybe just cut out sweets to start with, or biscuits, or chocolate ...

Maybe if we post our thoughts and problems here it will help? We can support each other.

Barktheheralddogssing Tue 27-Dec-16 13:36:40

Sorry oldbooks , forgot to reply.

Yes there are parks but not within walking distance. I live in a fairly grotty area and don't really want to get in the car each day to go for a walk. It's difficult ... Sometimes I walk into town and stroll round the shops but then there's the temptation of coffee and cake ... blush I'm also not great at getting out in the rain.

wizzywig Tue 27-Dec-16 13:41:50

For me any diet would work. Its my mindset that needs to change. Yes i could afford a gastric balloon but theres no point as i know id put the weight on as my mind needs retraining. I wasted so much money on hypnotherapy because i was looking for somekind of switch in my brain thatd let me stop eating when im not hungry. It never happened

Msqueen33 Tue 27-Dec-16 13:44:39

I have a real problem with emotional eating. I'm currently a large size 16. I'm dreadfully unhappy with my size and really need to address it so following with interest.

pklme Tue 27-Dec-16 13:49:11

I struggle if the focus is on food. I am signed up on the 'extreme self care' thread, as I feel my eating issues will be assisted by a bit more self love generally.
My parents never felt loving, I struggle to feel loved. I need to find things other than food to make me feel good!

OldBooks Tue 27-Dec-16 15:07:15

bluntness and coldfeet, you are absolutely right that I need to take responsibility for my own health. Posting this thread is part of that process. I know that a victim/blaming mentality won't help, but I need to find a positive way out of that mindset.

posie that NoS diet sounds interesting. I will look into it and read the MN thread

bark you wrote "I also struggle with being a perfectionist - if I don't succeed I'm very hard on myself and I'm very impatient, needing immediate results which of course is impossible when dieting.Sometimes (or maybe always? ) I feel I'm punishing myself by overeating when I feel I've failed." this is absolutely me. I don't exercise because I feel like I am being judged for how useless and out of shape I am - the perfectionist in me is horrified at the red faced gasping mess I become. But as has recently been pointed out to me, slowly grinding round the block for 20 mins is 20 mins more movement than I would have had staying at home.

I am hoping that bullet journalling might help with the lack of immediacy to the process by breaking it down into small weekly goals and giving me a box to tick if I succeed which will appeal to the achievement driven side of me.

pklme I agree that focusing on food is unhelpful. I don't even want the word diet to feature and I don't own scales. I am going to frame this as 'healthy lifestyle' goals and take a holistic approach. I want to set goals not just for improving my eating but also exercise, mental health and things like finding time to spend on hobbies, quality time with DH and so on.

bark, whizzy, msqueen and pklme please feel free to share thoughts, ideas and progress here. We can support each other.

OldBooks Tue 27-Dec-16 15:34:11 No S Diet link - i have just read this and it makes good sense

ColdFeetinWinter Tue 27-Dec-16 16:23:43

Old books re positive way out of that mentality Without knowing exact background is it possible to move into a phase of understanding your mum is only human and forgiving her imperfections? Seeing her as imperfect rather than deliberately harmful? Narcissism is horrible but I wonder how voluntary it is. My mum was 'difficult'. I now realise her early life experience shaped her and I can forgive because of that.

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